Friday, April 20, 2012

Webcast: The Intersection of the Environment and Poverty

A forum about the intersection of the environment and poverty   – environmental justice – will be webcast tomorrow (April 21) at 11:00 central time. This forum was initiated by the Episcopal Church, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is the keynote speaker. Kim Lawton, senior editor and correspondent of the PBS program Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly is the moderator for the forum. St. Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City is hosting the event.

After the forum, this webcast will be available for on-demand viewing for individuals or groups. There are two 45-minute panel discussions planned after the keynote address: Can Sustainability Initiatives Life those in Poverty? and Reducing Environmental Health Consequences for those in Poverty. Information about the panels and the connection to the webcast are available on this page on the Episcopal Church’s website. 

We tend to separate issues from one another, treating poverty and environmental issues and health issues as separate things. But everything is interconnected, and our understanding of all of these issues and our ability to serve others in the name of Christ are both increased by looking at the connections and intersections among various issues. In order to love our neighbors, we need to learn to care for the environment we all share.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tar Sands: The View from Canada

I've just returned from a few days in Vancouver, British Columbia, where our son was participating in a conference. On Sunday, we visited Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. Among the many exciting and inspiring things going on there was an announcement from The Environmental Group. They were inviting parishioners to join them for a “Compassion for Creation” discussion following a showing of a video from TEDxVictoria (November 19, 2011) by photographer Garth Lenz on the tar sands. 

The video contrasts the beauty and value of the boreal forest ecosystem with photos of the tar sands mining project and the threat it poses to the ecosystem and to the value that Canadians have traditionally placed on the forest and the people, plants, and animals that call it home. Garth Lenz says that the tar sands project represents “the antithesis” of these values.

As Nebraskans, our greatest concern about the tar sands mines has been the possibility of the Keystone XL pipeline coming through our Sandhills region and endangering our land and water. This video talks about that pipeline crossing this rich agricultural region as one of many concerns about plans to continue increasing the mining of the tar sands and production of oil from the bitumen. Because of the way oil is produced from tar sands, use of this oil results in more greenhouse gas emissions than those from any other source of oil.

It’s good to know that our Anglican sisters and brothers in Canada are also concerned about the tar sands, and it’s good for us in Nebraska to know that the effects of this project go way beyond the concerns we have about the proposed pipeline crossing particular parts of our state. Whatever route is proposed next, the environmental costs of tar sands oil are too great.

Garth Lenz talks about the effects of tar sands mining experienced by people living downstream from this area, then adds: “We all live ‘downstream’ in the era of global warming and climate change.” Please watch the video of his talk and pray that all of us might hear what God is calling us to do.